Pollution, littering, butts are not beyond our control
Some issues raised in the pages of The News recently underscore the potential for individuals to make a difference, even though the challenges may seen daunting. Take littering, cigarette butts and dirty water, please. In our August 7 edition, we reported on Mylène Poirier’s frustration with the “astonishing” volume of trash that is being dumped on public property in Alexndria.
“I take walks almost every day and I am very surprised at all the people who throw garbage out the window or throw garbage on the ground as they walk. I try to pick some garbage up as I walk but I cannot keep up since the amount is astonishing,” she wrote. “What are those people thinking? Don’t they know about animals choking on plastic? How about being civil and being responsible and just waiting to find a garbage can?”
Everyone would agree with the sentiments expressed by Ms. Poirier, who notes that the most common culprits seem to be fastfood restaurant customers.
Governments cannot oblige people to behave properly, however, certain actions by the State might mitigate the littering problem. For example, a common lament in Alexandria has been that there aren’t enough garbage receptacles on Main Street. While North Glengarry could always put out more bins, that move will not guarantee that litterers will actually use them.
While irresponsible people are a minority, the actions of the inconsiderate few can have a big impact on the rest of us, obviously.
An appeal to civic pride, to do the right thing, may might encourage these littering louts to think twice before tossing their trash onto a street or curb or into a ditch. But, litterers rarely think and certainly have no sense of pride. The good news is that the littering louts are outnumbered. Most people do not litter and in fact many routinely pick up after the offenders.
Since actions speak louder than words, perhaps the deeds of the conscientious will eventually be emulated by the perpetrators. Those who now toss trash on public property may some day see the light and help clean up our little corner of the world. Hey, a person can dream, right? Another but less pervasive scourge is the preponderance of cigarette butts.
Discarded tobacco filters are less numerous because fewer people are smoking cigarettes and many who still need and/or want nicotine hits have switched to different addictions, such as vaping.
Still, as we reported in our July 17 edition, the conventional cigarette has the dubious distinction of being Canada’s most common form of litter.
Alexandria environmentalist Deborah Waddell is hoping to do something about this problem by urging businesses and organizations to acquire “Zero Waste Boxes” distributed by TerraCycle,
a Toronto firm that recycles the “non-recyclable.”
As she observed, “A lot of people do not look at cigarette butts as being plastic.” The filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that is also found in eyeglass frames, playing cards and film. Since the zero waste containers come with pre-paid UPS shipping labels, no postage is paid when the boxes are full and are returned to TerraCycle, where the butts will be recycled.
“I see a lot of butts on sidewalks and in streets, even though employers do provide butt containers for their employees,” says Ms. Waddell.
A frightening fact: About 40 per cent of used butts get flicked into the environment.
A good first move could be easily taken by North Glengarry Township, which ought to endorse Ms. Waddell’s suggestion that the municipality buy a butt box. The purchase would send a message, provide a photo opportunity for politicians and make public areas just a little more inviting to all those tourists North Glengarry is striving to attract.
What a beach!
Unfortunately, on two occasions this summer, The News has had to report that high bacteria levels have caused the closure of Alexandria's Island Park beach.
There are many factors that contribute to water pollution, however, bacteria numbers tend to rise following heavy rainfalls, when a cocktail of contaminants is flushed into bodies of water.
Fortunately, those who are desperate to beat the heat can cool off at the splash pad west of the Sandfield Centre in Island Park.
But a splash pad is not the same as a sandy waterfront beach, which in recent years has been a cleaner place to linger due to the success of North Glengarry’s efforts to shoo away Canada geese. A flock still hangs around in the summer, but the numbers, and droppings, have been greatly curtailed in the last few years.
Of course the beach tends to be shut during the height of heat waves.
What can a person do to keep public areas clean? Collectively, we could mitigate contamination by ensuring that we are not unwittingly contributing to the foul flow that affects water quality.
As the Eastern Ontario Health Unit puts it: “An elevated bacteria density in the water is the major cause of postings. The most common bacteria is E. coli, which may indicate the presence of fecal coliforms (FC), an organism that exists in the feces of virtually all warm-blooded animals.”
It is no surprise that human and animal wastes become problematic when they end up in bathing areas.
Problems such as pollution and littering will be constant challenges. These issues will never be totally resolved, but that does not mean we can’t do something about them.